Baptist pastors and other ministers in Alabama have denounced and condemned sexual abuse, assault, harassment and exploitation of women, especially by men in power, in the wake of sexual misconduct accusations against Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore. Progressive pastors have declared him “not fit for office.”
“As ambassadors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this fallen world,” Baptist pastors wrote in a statement that they condemn all sexual harassment, noting that within the past several weeks many victims have come forward with their accusations against persons, predominantly men, in positions of power and authority.
While not naming Moore, the statement, signed by 87 pastors, says, “We also resolve to pray for and seek opportunities to minister to victims of sexual abuse in the name and healing grace of Jesus Christ and to continue to uphold the honor, dignity, and respect of all people, both males and females, as image-bearers of God.”
A woman named Leigh Corfman recently accused Moore of initiating sexual encounters with her when she was 14. Three other women came forward, alleging Moore attempted to date them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, though they clarified that he did not force them into any sort of sexual contact, and those actions are not illegal.
Also, Alabama resident Beverly Young Nelson alleged earlier this week that Moore groped her and tried to force her to perform oral sex when she was just 16.
“Mr. Moore began groping me, putting his hands on my breasts. I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head into his crotch,” Nelson, who was working as a waitress at the time, said. “I continued to struggle. I was determined that I was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him. I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me. I was twisting and struggling and begging him to stop. I had tears running down my face.”
In a letter, a group of 59 progressive Christian ministers from Alabama called Moore “not fit for office.”
“Even before the recent allegations of sexual abuse, Roy Moore demonstrated that he was not fit for office, and that his extremist values and actions are not consistent with traditional Christian values or good Christian character,” reads the letter, whose signatories include 23 United Methodist ministers, eight Baptists, seven Episcopal clergy and seven Presbyterian pastors.
“Christianity affirms God’s love for the neighbor and care for the most vulnerable in society: the widow, the foreigner, and the orphan. But he has denigrated people from other countries and other faiths,” the letter claims. “He opposes the expansion of Medicaid which would provide basic healthcare for over 400,000 poor and working poor Alabamians. He seeks to deny the most basic civil rights of our fellow citizens. He has used racial slurs and casually referred to state-sponsored violence against lesbian and gay families. He has sought to deny children without parents access to loving families on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Moore earlier issued a statement denying the accusations, first published in The Washington Post.
“It seems that in the political arena, to say that something is not true is simply not good enough. So let me be clear. I have never provided alcohol to minors, and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct. As a father of a daughter and a grandfather of five granddaughters, I condemn the actions of any man who engages in sexual misconduct not just against minors but against any woman.”
Alabama is expected to hold a special election on Dec. 12 to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Many GOP senators have called on Moore to drop out.
The conservative publication National Review also urged him to drop out.
“There is almost certainly no way to independently confirm them, and Moore denies them strenuously. But the allegations are credible. There are four women who spoke on the record,” the editors wrote. “Roy Moore is not a worthy standard-bearer for the Republican Party, and his vulnerabilities are now endangering what should be a completely safe Senate seat.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, has also been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment.
On Thursday, Los Angeles talk show host Leeann Tweeden wrote a blog describing how Franken gave her an unwanted kiss and put his hands on her breasts when she was asleep during a return flight from a 2006 USO tour in the Middle East.
“You knew exactly what you were doing. You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed,” Tweeden wrote on KABC.